Barge Involved in Franklin's First Public Inclusive Playground

29 / October / 2020

The City of Franklin, Tennessee is planning their first public inclusive playground as part of the new Southeast Municipal Complex. Barge Design Solutions, Inc. (Barge) is providing civil, architectural, mechanical, electrical, structural, and landscape design services for the playground.

Designed for all ages and abilities, this community resource is named in honor of late Franklin resident Elliot Grace Castro, known to her friends and family as Ellie G. Ellie G passed away at the age of four from a rare and terminal form of dwarfism.

“The vision for this project was to create a safe, inviting, and accessible playground for both children and caregivers which provides a variety of sensory-rich activities and promotes social, physical, and emotional development,” shares Jennifer Salyer, Barge Project Manager. To achieve this sensory-focused design, the project provides activities addressing seven senses: tactile, proprioception, vestibular, visual, auditory, motor planning, and social/imagination in a whimsical safari setting. Barge has worked in conjunction with equipment vendor Recreational Concepts and playground manufacturer Landscape Structures to provide accessible structures throughout the space.

The site design goes above and beyond minimum American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, not only providing opportunities for social interaction, development, and play between children of varying abilities, but also allowing their caregivers ample room to interact with and access the space. Salyer says, “Inclusivity means more than just providing access to those with mobility issues. It also includes providing quiet places to get away from chaos, shade and other elements which provide a cool respite, textures and sounds that stimulate a variety of senses, and restrooms equipped with adult changing facilities, all rolled into a welcoming and fun environment.”

The project has involved a robust community stakeholder committee tasked with providing critical design input – of which Barge’s Chief Marketing Officer and longtime Williamson County resident, Paula Harris, is a member. Committee members have varied backgrounds, but all have one common thread: a personal connection or experience with those who have mental, physical, or emotional challenges. This allows for a unique and thorough evaluation of the overall play environment’s level of inclusivity.

Barge’s involvement goes beyond technical design: this effort was awarded a Community Fund grant of $2,500 through non-profit Friends of Franklin Parks in Spring 2019 to jumpstart fundraising activities. Harris shares, “Equitable access to quality of life amenities is of utmost importance. We are thrilled to be part of this effort to provide an inclusive playground which will transcend generations and serve the entire neighborhood.”

Barge recently completed work on another inclusive playground for the City of Kingsport, Tennessee with Gametime, a Playcore Company: Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthy Place playground.